UAP Graduate Certificate

UAP Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Information Technology (G.I.T.)
Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) includes collection and analysis of remotely sensed data, digital spatial and attribute data used by geographic information systems (GIS), and the application of related technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Geographic Information Science is one of the leading careers in the United States today.

As depth of knowledge is important to careers in the industry, this certificate requires 12 hours of geospatial coursework. Coursework is taken from three categories, beginning with introductory topics, and continuing through more advanced and specialized topics as best fits the student’s background and future goals.

G.I.T. Admission Requirements
Virginia Tech students accepted in any graduate program category: PhD., MS, MA, Commonwealth Campus, or Non-Degree can be admitted into the GIT program by completing the Graduate Certificate Application, and completing a plan for taking courses required on the course checklist below.

Students should meet with an academic adviser familiar with the classes on the list below and submit the application form to Dr. Bill Carstensen for Certificate Program Approval signature no fewer than six months prior to completion of coursework.

Specific steps in the process are:

  1. Meet with or discuss the choice of acceptable courses with an adviser knowledgeable of the GIT coursework on campus (see suggested advisors list under Advisors tab to the left)
  2. Fill out and bring the certificate application form to Dr. Bill Carstensen for signature
  3. Submit the signed form to the Graduate School no fewer than six months prior to completion of course requirements
  4. Complete 12 hours from the course requirements list below
  5. Submit the completed course check sheet and an unofficial copy of the transcript along with the Application for Degree or Certificate Conferral form  to Dr. Bill Carstensen, chair of the Oversight Committee, for a signature, and then take Application for Certificate Conferral Form to the Graduate School
G.I.T. Course Requirements
A.  Introductory Courses:  (0 – 6 credits to cover prerequisites for courses below)
Conceptual, technical, and operational aspects of geographic information systems as a tool for storage, analysis, and presentation of spatial information. Focus on engineering applications in resource management, site selection, and network analysis. Laboratory work required. Graduate standing required.
Examination of data structures used in geographic information systems. Map projections and coordinate systems used in mapping. Database creation, maintenance, and integrity. Applications of GIS methods for solving civil engineering problems in land management and related areas.
Course will introduce students to the theory and applications of database management systems (DBMS) and geographic information systems (GIS). Uses, challenges, and limitations of these technologies in natural resource management application will be discussed.
Philosophy and rationale of remote sensing as a part of the resource management process; comparisons of analogic and digital sensors; sensor selection and proper use; accuracy assessment; signature development; and identification of factors which affect the quality of remotely sensed information.
Foundations and applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS); geographic coordinate systems, Cartesian map projections, spatial data sources, efficient GIS data structures, map representations, and spatial applications of GIS. Pre: Graduate Standing.
Theory and methods of remote sensing. Practical exercises in interpretation of aerial photography, satellite, radar, and thermal infrared imagery. Digital analysis, image classification, and evaluation. Applications in earth sciences, hydrology, plant sciences, and land use studies. Field project and report. Review of current research literature. Graduate standing required.
Introduction to the concepts and methods of ecological resource survey and analysis at regional and site scales. Approaches to environmental problem solving with an emphasis on data collection, evaluation, and synthesis using applicable technologies such as geographic information systems. Interpretation of landscape resource data for the purpose of physical planning and design.
An examination of a wide range of computer-based techniques that are of value in analyzing urban and regional planning and management problems. Techniques include linear programming, goal programming; modeling of complex systems; and decision modeling. May be repeated with different content for a maximum of 12 credits.
B.  Advanced Courses:  (6 -12 credit hours)
This project based course deals with both vector and raster Geographic Information Systems (GIS), network analysis, tracking applications, hydrologic applications, spatial analysis, web databases, and linking GIS to models with programming, specifically in the civil and environmental engneering arena. Pre: Any introductory GIS course, including CEE 5204, GEOG 4084, or BSE 4344. Pre: Graduate standing.
Advanced GIS course focusing on raster analysis with particular application to the issues associated with hydrologic analysis. Application and evaluation of algorithms for terrain analysis, watershed characterization, and hydrologic analysis and modeling as implemented in GIS. Digital elevation data sources and error assessment. Approaches to GIS/model integration and application. Pre:Graduate standing.
This course treats a specific advanced topic of current research interest in the area of data and information. Papers from the current literature or research monographs are likely to be used instead of a textbook. Student participation in a seminar style format may be expected. Prerequisite(s): CS 5604 (UG) OR CS 5614 (UG) OR CS 5604 OR CS 5614.
Interdisciplinary seminar devoted to current research in the fields of remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems, and related topics. Seminars, workshops, and presentations conducted by students, faculty, and visitors. Pre: Graduate standing.
Theory of spectroscopy and spectrometry from portable spectroradiometers to airborne and spaceborne hyperspectral sensors as relevant to natural resource applications, including vegetation species indentification and vegetative health, soil and peat properties, mineral and geothermal characteristics, and water applications. Practical investigation of research tools and techniques used to analyze hyperspectral data. Pre-requisite: Graduate Standing Required.
Acquiring and using publicly available natural resources data sources. Methods and algorithms for terrain modeling and landscape metrics. Evaluation of the impacts of data errors and variability on analysis results, including sensitivity analysis of GIS-based resource assessments. Special issues related to temporal data and the management of natural resources information systems.
Theoretical underpinning of established and emerging research using light detection and ranging (lidar) technology for forestry applications including detailed terrain mapping and digital elevation models, canopy height modeling, prediction of forest biophysical parameters, forest physiology and the canopy light regime, watershed mapping and stream modeling, ecological modeling, landsca[pe classifications, and wildlife habitat. Advanced research tools and techniques used to analyze lidar data for different applications. Graduate standing required.
Methods of describing and analyzing spatial distributions, including spatial autocorrelation, quadrat analysis, trend surface analysis, and methods of map comparison. Applications to student research problems.
Use of automated systems for geographic data collection, diditization, storage, display, modeling and analysis. Basic data flow in GIS modeling applications. Development of proficiency in the use of current GIS software. Pre: Graduate Standing.
Principles, history, and methods of aerial photographic interpretation. Introduction to photographic systems and application to aerial photography. Human dimension to photo interpretation. Applications to varied fields of knowledge such as land-use mapping, earth sciences, forestry, agriculture, history and archaeology, and military and strategic studies.
Geographical analysis of water as a hazard upon human (infrastructure, economy) and natural (rivers, groundwater) systems in the form of hydrometeorological events, water- and vector-borne disease, climate change, dams, and eutrophication. Development of proficiency in demonstrating the multi-dimensionality of water resources. Pre: Graduate Standing.
Analysis of the spatio-temporal patters of land use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) as observed in satellite images. Tropical deforestation, urbanization, and agricultural intensification. Rates and patterns of LULCC linked to biophysical and socio-economic drivers. Impacts of land change with respect to local climate, biodiversity, water yield and quality, and ecosystem services.
This course focuses on the analysis of the spatio-temporal of the vegetated land surface as observed in satellite images. Phenological events, such as the first openings of leaf and flower buds, are good indicators of the impact of local and global climate change. The focus of this course will beon satellite image time series used in the derivation of land surface phenology, the appearance and development of phenology other global regions, and the methods developed for the monitoring of phenology with satellite imagery. A major theme will be causes of spatio-temporal changes of phenological events and the effect of global climate change. Pre-requisite: Graduate Standing required.
Computational methods of map analysis with the ArcGIS Geographic Information System. Scripting and Visual Basic.NET programming using Environmentatl Systems Research Institute’s ArcObjects library for customization of GIS software to meet research and analytical needs for both the desktop and the web. Pre: 5084G and computer programing experience.
Use of web mapping technologies for geographic data collection, storage, analysis, and display. Web mapping topics include history and context, spatial data infrastructures, hardware and software architectures, Open Geospatial Consortium standards, mapping API’s, virtual globes, user-centric design, web cartography. Pre: Graduate standing.
In-depth coverage of advanced topics in the field of remote sensing selected to cover emerging techniques and technologies. Examples of topics, which will differ each semester, include field data in support of remote sensing, accuracy assessment, and hyperspectral remote sensing. Critical assessment of the ways in which remotely sensed data and information are employed in varied scientific disciplines and by society.
Spatial data structures: geostatistical data, lattices and point patterns. Stationary and isotropic random fields. Autocorrelated data structures. Semivariogram estimation and spatial prediction for geostatistical data. Mapped and sampled point patterns. Regular, completely random and clustered point processes. Spatial regression and neighborhood analyses for data on lattices.
G.I.T. Potential Advisors and Departments
UAP Academic Programs

Undergraduate Degrees

The Bachelor of Arts in Public and Urban Affairs degree provides the planning and policy skills and insights in order to understand and affect the economic, environmental, social, and governmental consequences of urban growth and change. Graduates work in government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector addressing complex problems in realms such as urban planning, environmental justice, economic development, food systems, and international development.
The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning degree provides students the opportunity to study environmental problems and their solutions from an interdisciplinary perspective involving humanities, natural and social sciences, planning, and public policy. Graduates work in government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector, focusing on planning issues and challenges that affect local, regional, national and international communities. Graduates of the Environmental Planning and Policy degree program work in government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector, focusing on planning issues and challenges that affect local, regional, national and international communities.

Undergraduate Minors

The Environmental Policy and Planning Minor provides a critical interdisciplinary insight into modern environmental concerns.
A minor in Public and Urban Affairs requires completion of 18 credit hours:
UAP 1024: Public Issues in Urban Society
UAP 3014: Urban Policy and Planning
12 hours from approved list of UAP courses
The Real Estate Minor is a vital aspect of educating students for careers in real estate and in the real estate aspects of many facets of modern life. The instructional material is relevant to professionals in a wide range of real estate organizations and program graduates work in public sector agencies and in the private sector in such areas as economic development, urban planning and commercial/residential development.
The Watershed Management Minor provides an interdisciplinary and substantive understanding of watershed science, policy and decision-making. Alumni are prepared for careers in government, nonprofits and private sector organizations that focus on water resources.

Master’s Degrees

The Masters in Urban and Regional Planning degree has a dual objective of training graduates for their first planning job, and more importantly instilling conceptual and critical thinking necessary for lifelong learning and career development. Graduates are able to assume professional responsibilities in a wide variety of positions in public service or in the private sector.
MURP’s Dual Masters degrees, also known as simultaneous degrees, exist between the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) and Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Natural Resources degrees (MNR). Dual degrees provide students with the opportunity to master core material in more than one field, allowing them to acquire the flexibility to engage in a wide range of activities within multiple fields and become bridge-builders between them; in fact, many rise to leadership positions because of their multi-disciplinary perspective. If you are interested in this program in Blacksburg, please contact If you are interested in this program in Alexandria, please contact

Doctoral Degree

The PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) draws insights from the social sciences and humanities into the multidimensional study of governance processes in all levels of society and international affairs. The faculty and students work jointly to cultivate their experience, knowledge, and skill with regard to the governance practices, political institutions, social dynamics, cultural values, workplace conditions, spatial formations, historical trends, and ethical conflicts that intersect in the workings of government, business, and not-for-profit organizations. Program graduates work in a range of nonprofit/NGO, public and private organizations at national and international levels.


Urban and regional planners need to know how they can develop their economies. The challenge for policymakers, economic developers and urban planners nowadays is to design appropriate local and regional economic development policies and programs to respond to challenges resulting from globalization, technological development, demographic changes, urban decline, sprawl, and social inequities. Virginia Tech’s Graduate Certificate in Economic Development is designed for those who are interested in acquiring a basic understanding of urban and regional economic development dynamics and the role of policy in influencing them.
Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) includes collection and analysis of remotely sensed data, digital spatial and attribute data used by geographic information systems (GIS), and the application of related technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS). Geographic Information Science is one of the leading careers in the United States today. As depth of knowledge is important to careers in the industry, this certificate requires 12 hours of geospatial coursework. Coursework is taken from three categories, beginning with introductory topics, and continuing through more advanced and specialized topics as best fits the student’s background and future goals.
The Graduate Certificate in Global Planning and International Development Studies builds on Virginia Tech’s internationally recognized, 30-year specialization in international development planning and an innovative partnership between faculty in programs such as Urban Affairs and Planning, Public Health, Geography, and Building Construction. The certificate seeks to prepare graduate students in multiple disciplines to engage in meaningful global professional leadership and academic positions to systematically tackle and resolve these global planning and development issues.
The Graduate Certificate in Metropolitan Studies is designed for those who are interested in acquiring a basic understanding of metropolitan development dynamics and the role of policy in influencing them. The certificate is part of the Urban Affairs and Planning program’s overall mission to teach students how to understand, analyze, and influence the forces that shape the metropolitan built environment.
Virginia Tech’s School certificate in Nonprofit and NGO Management focuses on the most vital and urgent management challenges for nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. The certificate is ideal for rising professionals across the globe navigating the complex fiscal, managerial and networked environments of nonprofits and NGOs during a time of significant change. Courses in the certificate also include a focus on leadership, complex management, program evaluation with an emphasis on accountability. All courses seamlessly integrate the domestic and international context.
The management of water resources is a critical issue facing governmental agencies, as well as the private/industrial sector and citizens. The Watershed Management Certificate provides an excellent opportunity for future water and land managers to develop the interdisciplinary skills necessary for meeting these challenges in the field of water resources. This certificate integrates existing programs and courses from five colleges and ten departments at Virginia Tech to provide an interdisciplinary and substantive understanding of watershed science, policy, and decision-making.

Special Programs

The Combined B.A. Architecture/Masters in Urban and Regional Planning degree provides students with the option of earning a professionally-accredited Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree along with the professionally accredited Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree. Graduates of the combined degree program are at the nexus of planning and architectural design, crafting solutions to community issues that respond to social, political, economic and spatial challenges.
Located in Old Town Alexandria, the Washington Semester is an eleven-week summer program that provides students the opportunity to acquire professional experience in a governmental agency or other relevant enterprise in the private or nonprofit sector.
UAP Faculty and Staff
UAP Contacts

Leigh Bower
Administrative Assistant
(540) 231-5485

Myriam Lechuga
Graduate Student Coordinator
(571) 858-3102

Ralph Buehler (UAP Chair)
Yang Zhang (MURP Coordinator)
Ralph Hall (PUA/EPP Coordinator)

UAP Locations

Washington D.C.
900 N. Glebe Rd., 6th Floor, VTRC
Arlington, VA  22203
Mail Code: 0804

Architecture Annex
140 Otey St
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Mail Code: 0113

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